I think the term “subjective happiness” is redundant. Isn’t all happiness subjective? Haven’t we seen people who should be happy by our standards act miserable? And seen people with joy in their hearts who others think should be miserable? According to the video below there is a real connection between the outlook of conservatives and their happiness and the outlook of what the video terms as liberals (but I term leftists) and their lack of happiness. Even when each individual is in possession of the same kind of lifestyle and level of social interaction their outlook produces happiness for them, or robs them of that happiness.
My personal opinion on why people are miserable is pretty simple. This article points out the fact that in terms of overall wealth, freedom, and health, the world in general is better off than it ever has been. I’ve always liked Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I was 10 years old when I first heard about it in school. Even then it made sense to me and I’ve returned to it often ever since. At the base of that hierarchy are the physiological needs of the individual: food, clothing, shelter. Then safety. The idea is that until the needs of one area are met the individual can’t really enjoy or “move on” to the other levels. In today’s world, while by no means perfect, more people have those first two base levels met than ever before. Despite that people don’t seem able to enjoy the final three levels (love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization).
I believe there reason for this is that people have become more cynical and jaded. Less full of awe and wonder. One manifestation of this can be found in two places. First is the movie theater. People enjoy movies less, enjoy the escapism of movies less. The pick on them, finding flaw in the smallest thing rather than simply accepting it and trying to understand it for what it is, story. The second is found in the toy store. Large toy chains like Toys R Us are closing down one by one. Kids don’t seem to be playing with toys as much as they used to. Under all this, I think, the movement away from religion, or a spiritual life, is the catalyst.
I’m not saying everyone must believe in god or the world is doomed. But a belief in deity brings with it a certain type of mind and thinking. Even if much of that isn’t conscious it’s there.
The author of the below linked article writes, “As we have slowly and surely attained more progress, we have lost something that under girds all of it: meaning, cohesion, and a different, deeper kind of happiness than the satiation of all our earthly needs. We’ve forgotten the human flourishing that comes from a common idea of virtue, and a concept of virtue that is based on our nature.” At the very core of it, taking away the trappings of religion (the clothing, the chants, the incense, the steeples, the rules) is the idea that man is more than man. One of my favorite scriptures from the old testament comes from David in Psalms when he asks, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” I personal feel that question bespeaks wonder on the part of David. Small as he was God still knew he was there. Regardless of if you believe in God or not, that idea is one you should understand.
People get so bent out of shape when religion comes up. They don’t seem to really understand what it is, where it came from, and the benefit it has for humans. They see only the abuses of religion over the ages and can’t seem to see them as abuses. They mistaken take the abuses for religion itself. That’s not the case at all.
Just as it is popular to pick apart movies and criticize them it has become popular to do the same with religion. But that is ignorant in the extreme. Man and religion go hand in hand. Even when man had a heavy brow and a stocky build drinking from the river Düssel he put his dead in the ground and left with them artifacts of their life and flowers. However it is that you can fit it into your life I recommend that religion be a part of it. I mean that in the broad sense. I’m not saying what religion, or what manner you should engage. It may simple be study of the world’s religions. I love to study them. I’ve read the holy books of all the major ones and some of the stories and texts of some of the not so major or defunct historical ones. A lot of people find a great deal of escape and solace from Norse Mythology. Others from the spiritual side of Yoga. And some like the more traditional religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and the like. A person who has nothing but disdain for religion as a thing is a person who simply doesn’t understand it. Which is a shame because understanding it is relatively easy to do since it is a manifestation of parts of human evolution.
Science and religion are compatible. Religion and the modern world are compatible.
What man gets from religion (again in any form) is the thing man needs to release him from his terrible melancholy, cynicism, and sarcasm. The short of it is, you don’t have to be a miserable jerk who pokes holes in everyone’s fun and learning a little about something mystical really can help. Suspend your skepticism long enough to ponder the idea.
As we have slowly and surely attained more progress, we have lost something that undergirds all of it: meaning, cohesion, and a different, deeper kind of happiness than the satiation of all our earthly needs. We’ve forgotten the human flourishing that comes from a common idea of virtue, and a concept of virtue that is based on our nature.